There are a lot of fine people living in Clearfield, and among them are some pretty sharp members of the city council.
We’ve dealt with them over the years and found them to be pretty straight shooters. We’ve also dealt with the leaders of the Davis County Board of Health and found them to be reasonable people, as well.
But the Clearfield City Council’s recent actions strike us as beyond comprehension.
Essentially, the Clearfield City Council last week precipitously opted to disregard the vote of the people in last November’s election over fluoride. In essence, they offered to give aid and comfort to anyone who wanted to strike up petitions to put fluoridation back on the ballot.
Clearfield is not alone in this campaign. We’ve been seeing an underground battle to thwart the results of the election in various communities within Davis County.
The efforts are couched in terms to make them sound more reasonable, but in the end, they’re really tantrums thrown by fluoridation opponents because they didn’t get their way. Instead of respecting the American institution of the vote of the people, they are seeking every means possible to nullify the election.
The Clipper did exhaustive research into the fluoridation issue over a period of many months. More than 70 concerns over fluoridation were researched, with both sides giving their input and having full right of review over what was said about their respective positions.
We published myriad stories about the issue and gave away our space for columns and our own editorials on this page for weeks so that as many letters to the editor as possible could be published.
We stopped in non-Utah cities with fluoridation to understand their experience. We even sent reporters to Brigham City (which has had fluoridation for nearly four decades) to talk to as many people as possible.
All that research, led us to some very clear conclusions:
1. Despite what some would have us believe, fluoridation is not an issue of government interference or curtailment of personal freedom. It is a long-established fact that the government — through the vote of the people or their representatives — has the power to tax, set standards, exercise eminent domain, enforce laws and require compliance in myriad situations. Every item in this list has upset or inconvenienced someone.
The fluoridation issue is not the proper forum in the debate over the role of government. It is a mere skirmish in an overall issue that needs to be addressed at a far more general level, and then applied to specific issues.
2. It is not seemly for public officials to put their personal prejudices ahead of the voice of the people. Their role is to uphold the sanctity of the vote and defend its outcome no matter what their own positions may be. Even if only a few hundred votes separate the outcome of an issue, elected officials who fight against that outcome are in effect disenfranchising more than half of their own voters.
Prosecutors face this issue all the time, frequently having to try cases based on the requirements of the law, even though they may be personally opposed.
3. The fluoridation issue should be decided (and was) based on only two considerations. Is it effective and good for the public as a whole? Is it safe? If the public feels those are answered in the affirmative, then its vote should prevail.
There are, of course, times when issues are of such monumental importance that people need to risk their reputations, careers, lives — and even public condemnation — to fight against them even if those issues enjoy the support of laws or widespread acceptance. Those instances are extremely rare, however, and fluoridation isn’t even remotely close.
4. The very existence of so many claims against fluoride is actually evidence of the weakness of the anti-fluoridation position. Because every one of the claims, taken separately, will fall apart upon close inspection, fluoridation opponents know they can never win by attacking with a trump card (there isn’t one). Their only hope is similar to what trial attorneys go for who have no clear way of proving their clients innocent: spread around so many claims and countercharges that the jury (or the public) becomes confused, creating reasonable doubt.
5. We admit that we could not do exhaustive personal research into every one of the 70 or more questions about fluoridation (which is why opponents throw up so many), but we did check out many of them. We called other cities, we talked with people personally, we consulted experts.
In every case, the evidence against fluoridation was misrepresented, misleading or simply fell apart. We could not substantiate a single claim against fluoridation when we inspected it closely.
6. A case in point was the contention that fluoridation has been proven so dangerous that cities across the nation were abandoning it. We checked out what seemed an impressive list of dozens of cities that had “seen the light,” given to us by fluoridation opponents.
True, they had stopped fluoridating the water, but not because of any evidence of health problems. In most cases, (1) the fluoridation equipment had broken down temporarily and was in the process of being repaired, (2) the city had run out of funds to continue fluoridation and was awaiting new money, (3) or fluoridation foes had lobbied so hard that fluoridation had been defeated in a popular vote, despite the protestations of public health officials.
This is also tempered by the realization that most of the dozens of cities “abandoning” fluoridation are actually small communities, and not major cities. In contrast, more than 10,500 of America’s towns, including its largest cities, support fluoridation.
7. Opponents will make the case that our research is flawed because we relied on published reports or experts on some of the 70 concerns, instead of taking field trips to verify every one of them. But that doesn’t matter. Had we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to check out all 70, there would have been a 71st objection. Or a 72nd. or a 73rd, etc.
Actually, we did the research not to prove that fluoridation was beneficial, but to warn the public if there were indeed dangers. We couldn’t find them.
Our position is really quite simple. Nearby Brigham City has had fluoridation for enough decades to expose potential hazards. Since they’re not worried, we needn’t be either.
Public officials throughout Davis County, meanwhile, should respect the will of the people and stay the course.